ThePoultrySite Quick Disease Guide
A Pocket Guide to
By Paul McMullin
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Cellulitis is literally an inflammation of connective tissues. It typically occurs between skin and muscles and between muscles and may be an incidental finding in a range of conditions. However its main importance is as a cause of condemnation in meat poultry, particularly broiler chickens.
In the USA it is called 'Inflammatory Process'. The condition is caused by infection of, often minor, skin wounds by particular strains of E. coli, which can replicate in the tissues.
- Affected flocks tend to have poorer than average productivity and uniformity, but the affected birds are not readily detectable prior to slaughter.
- Typically it presents as exudate ranging from liquid and pale cream pus to yellowish solid plaques of caseous material under the skin of the abdomen and/or in the leg. Many affected birds have no other lesions and are reasonably well grown. Many meat inspectors become skilled at detecting subtle differences in skin colour in the affected birds.
Treatment would not be possible if the problem is identified at a final depletion. If identified at a thinning there may be time for antibacterial treatment to have some benefit for those birds in the early stages of the problem.
Toe scrapes at 15-25 days of age when feather cover is poor are the most likely predisposing factors. Careful flock management with a view to reducing toe wounds has the greatest impact in controlling cellulitis. Routine monitoring of skin damage at about 25 days of age may be helpful in fostering good practices, though most of the birds showing toe scrapes will not go on to develop cellulitis.